Zahn Innovation Center start-up rolls out a new product
While riding his skateboard from a friend’s house one night six months ago, Guillermo Jimenez got hit by a car. The 21-year old former City College student became so frightened, that he began riding his skateboard less than usual and only in the mornings. “I was struck from behind. The driver never saw that I was in front of him because there were no street lights,” says Jimenez, who suffered minor head injuries and a broken left arm. “To make matters worst I had an all-black outfit, so the driver really couldn’t see me. I’m just glad my injuries weren’t as bad as they could’ve been. I got lucky.”
Jimenez is among many skaters who have been injured or killed by a driver who didn’t see them riding in the roadways at night. According to Skateparks.org, in the past two years, most skateboarding fatalities involved a vehicle not seeing the skater in the evening.
To help, Aulio Diaz and Ivan Estevez created Torpedo Skate Lights to make skateboard riders visible at night and protect them from any future accidents. The two City College student engineers Diaz and Estevez receive financial and other kinds of support for their startup, Ekick Technologies, from the Zahn Innovation Center. Located on the City College campus, the Center is designed to encourage innovation and development and train the next generation of entrepreneurs with the skills they need to succeed in today’s economy.
Estevez conceived the product based on first-hand experience skateboarding through New York City. “I hit a van around Yankee Stadium, because he was trying to park. The guy didn’t watch out to see who was coming from the other side,” Estevez says. “I hit him [and] when he came out he said he didn’t see me. And I said wow I got lucky this time, but next time I might not be so lucky. And I came up with the idea of incorporating lights onto the skateboard because skaters weren’t able to be seen.”
Even skateboarders, who have been fortunate to avoid injury, think the light is necessary. “As a skateboarder I worry about my safety all the time, especially at night,” says Jose Rodriguez, a student at Brooklyn College. “I skateboard at night from my apartment to school, since I have evening classes. Having this on my skateboard will make me feel a lot more safer, I must say.”
Though Estevez is most passionate about skateboarders, he believes his project will benefit everyone. “We want the skaters to have presence at night, so they and everyone else around them can be safe,” he says.
The Zahn Center is sponsoring a round of competitions for $140,000 in prize money with a December 1 deadline. For more information, click here.